High-Quality recyclates from Multi-layer plastic waste
Can multilayer flexible plastic packaging be recycled today? Yes! Advanced physical recycling technologies can separate the different polymers and can produce plastic recyclates that feature virgin-near functionalities.
The Circularity of Plastic Packaging: A Focus on Re-Design
Two years after the launch the EU Plastics Strategy and in the same year as the publication of the Green Deal, this is the right time to take a look at the public discussion and its results so far. We quickly realize that they will only bring us ‘semi-circle’ to a circular economy for plastics (packaging). The pressure on the packaging and plastic value chains to change has resulted in a strong focus on rethinking the design of plastic products – to make them more reusable and more recyclable. Re-designing plastic products will be a valid approach for some types of packaging. But it can very well lead to negative results for others. The major question hardly asked and approached in a concerted manner is: What are the criteria to determine when a re-design of plastic-packaging can be considered sustainable? Is recyclability in today’s average mechanical recycling process trumping it all? A one-sided understanding of circularity may rather lead to a longer detour than in a straight way to a a truly circular economy as it could rather shift impacts from one life cycle step of a product to the next.
A Case for Innovation in Packaging Design & Recycling Technology
Sustainable re-design of products, ensuring performance and resource efficiency of plastic packaging, is one of the two major columns of a circular plastic industry. The other – equally relevant – column is a sound understanding of established and innovative recycling technologies as well as their relevance in the circular plastics economy context. Investments into future-bound infrastructure is a step that should not be postponed any longer. Both elements – sustainable re-design and innovation in recycling technology – are intertwined and support each other. Innovative recycling technologies for example, will change our perception of what is considered ‘recyclable’ and therefore result in a different need for sustainable re-design of certain products.
Multilayer Flexible Packaging
So, here is the good news: from a circularity point of view, multi-layer flexible plastic packaging is just fine! When assessing innovative recycling technologies, it quickly becomes apparent that there are advanced physical processes – building on existing mechanical practices – that can handle mixed flexible plastics packaging waste and that can separate the different layers of polymers from each other in the recycling process to produce close to virgin quality recycles. And no – this does not refer to chemical recycling approaches, but to physical approaches, such as dissolution recycling (in which the molecular chain of the polymer stays intact). Dissolution recycling, such as APK’s Newcycling® technology, is already available at industrial scale.
APK was founded in 2008 with the vision of producing pure polymers from plastic waste, with properties close to virgin plastics. APK’s researchers and engineers have developed a suite of environmentally sound and market-leading recycling technologies under the Newcycling® brand. At its industrial-scale plant in Merseburg (Saxony-Anhalt, Germany) APK currently employs around 130 engineers, researchers, and administrative staff and features a recycling capacity of up to 20,000 tonnes per year. The two well-established plastic recyclate products produced in Merseburg are marketed as Mersalen® and Mersamid®. More information is available at www.apk-ag.de.
What is Multilayer Barrier Packaging?
Written by Klaus Wohnig
Klaus Wohnig is the CEO of APK AG. He has demonstrated an executive history of working in several industries. Skilled in Finance, Investor Relations, Start-up Ventures, Sales, Accounting, and Business Development. He holds a degree in Business Administration (Diplom-Kaufmann (Univ.) from KU Eichstätt WFI Ingolstadt